An outbreak of six cases of cryptosporidiosis was identified among emergency responders to a rollover accident involving a tractor-trailer carrying approximately 350 preweaned Holstein calves, according to an MMWR report.
The truck overturned near Colby, Kansas, during a snowstorm in March 2013. Many of the calves died in the accident, and others were scattered outside and unable to walk due to their age and injuries. Responders carried the surviving calves onto trailers.
There were 15 emergency responders and six cases of cryptosporidiosis among them. Disease was associated with carrying the calves (RR=3; 95% CI, 1.2-7.6) and contact with fecal matter (RR=4.5; 95% CI, 1.3-15.3). Most of the calves had scours, a diarrheal disease often caused by Cryptosporidium spp. The conditions at the accident resulted in a high potential for fecal contamination and transmission of the organism.
The responders included five law enforcement officers, one who became ill. Ten other responders included tow truck drivers, the driver of the wrecked truck and other people from the community. Five people became ill. The most common symptoms, aside from diarrhea, included abdominal cramps, anorexia and weight loss, with five reports for each. Five of the ill responders sought medical care. Two responders had positive test results from stool specimens, but the other four did not submit stool specimens.
“This outbreak is the first report of both law enforcement and volunteer emergency responders contracting cryptosporidiosis, with transmission of Cryptosporidium attributed solely to direct contact with animals and their feces,” the investigators wrote. “Human illness resulting from contact with animals during an emergency response might be minimized if 1) all responders are aware of the potential for zoonotic transmission, 2) education is provided on proper animal handling, including the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, and 3) responders practice thorough hand hygiene and decontaminate clothing and equipment following contact with feces.”
Disclosure: The investigators report no relevant financial disclosures.